The Great Christmas Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in late December 2020 got a lot a media attention, so I had to see if I could get a good picture, too.


Jupiter was much brighter than Saturn, so if the image with both planets were normally displayed, Saturn would almost be invisible. All popular images that were published were actually composed of a double exposure. I had a few different ideas for my photos.


December 20, the day before the closest separation, actually provided a more photogenic composition, in my opinion, since all four of the Galilean moons are included.  They are also pretty dim, so making them appear led to saturating Jupiter.  This is OK, because there was not much detail to be seen on the planet anyway. Part of this is because they were pretty low on the horizon, making for poor seeing. Here are the best Jupiter and Saturn images taken over a few nights, and the full image with Saturn on top and (left to right) Callisto, Ganymede, Jupiter, Io, and Europa near the bottom. Very close to Ganymede, but not quite seen here, is a dim star that was occulted by Ganymede on the same night. On the next night, Jupiter was positioned slightly to the left compared to this image, but only three moons were visible.




By combining images early and late in the evening, the motion of Jupiter’s satellites can be seen. One way to do this is by combining them into a stereo pair. By adjusting the screen size and letting your eyes focus on the image in front of it, Io appears closer and Ganymede appears further away!



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Web page last updated May 2, 2019.